We found a silver lining this cloudy day
The fishing trip started up late that day. Because of work, Mike and I couldn’t leave on our expedition until three in the afternoon. Then I botched our departure with forgotten items, and we didn’t even get on the road until four.
Uncertain of what we would be facing on the Choptank with the brisk, windy weather of March, we held out little hope for a successful trip, especially since we were running so late. There would be little time to search for fish.
But this season we had decided that we would go whenever we could, no planning for the perfect conditions with plenty of leisure, no cherry picking the 10-day weather forecast. We were going to fish every chance we got.
As we hastily launched my small skiff at a Northern Choptank ramp at about 4:45pm, prospects looked even gloomier, and not just because it was late afternoon on a windy, cloudy day. The water was exceedingly low, not an optimum condition for finding active fish.
We had hoped to cash in on the yellow perch run, but at this point we would have been happy with anything. Switching to an exploratory frame of mind, we decided that if we weren’t apt to find fish, it was a good day to check out the stream bank and bottom structure, because with the low water we sure could see plenty of that.
Heading downstream, we paused from time to time to cast to the occasional fishy-looking cove or fallen tree. For the most part, we were just looking, noting promising areas for future trips. For the longest time, the only action was retrieving our lures from over-hanging branches and underwater snags.
Fish Are Biting
The yellow perch run is becoming a mystery. It started up the last week in February, then faltered. Now white perch are running. The yellows may have jumped the gun and run earlier this year, as white perch are now. Whatever the case, get on the water as soon as you can. Springtime perch fishing is the best.
On the Susquehanna Flats, water temperatures are getting close to ideal. The big fish should be on the bite soon, also an experience you should not miss. If you’re anticipating the opening day of rockfish trophy season April 19, you’ll be glad to know that anglers scouting the mid-Bay have been locating good numbers of large fish, and releasing them, just south of the Bridge.
Then, in a particularly nondescript stretch of river, which was unique only in that it had virtually no apparent fish-holding structure, Mike made a random cast and hooked up with a nice white perch.
That was surprising, first because it is early in the year for them. Whites usually don’t start running until later in March. Second, there seemed to be no reason for fish to be holding on that particular section of the water.
I kept the boat steady in the current with the electric motor while Mike unhooked the chunky devil, rebaited and cast again to that spot, if only to confirm the 10-inch fish was just a wandering stray.
He immediately hooked up again. Fighting the apparently sizeable fish with one hand, he groped with his other for our bow anchor, found it and lowered it over the side. I shut down the motor and reached for my rod.
For the next hour, silver flashed everywhere in the surrounding water as we battled white perch after white perch from that otherwise unremarkable 15-yard section. On virtually every cast, we got hook-ups. We were frequently fighting fish simultaneously.
There were certainly a fair number of smaller fish, but there were also a whole lot of table-sized whites, many over 10 inches and a few just short of 12. Those above nine and a half inches went into the fish box; the shorts went back over the side. Our arms soon ached from the constant battle. No matter what their size, these early run fish were full of scrap.
One more welcome surprise: Most of these fish, especially the bigger ones, were empty of roe. Even at this early date, they had already completed their spawn. I relish the occasional treat of fried perch roe, but I prefer to let the big, egg-laden females go on their way to procreate.
Before the sun had descended to the horizon, we had run out of minnows and had a box full of handsome white perch. Wrists sore and weary, we headed home. Already planning a fish fry the next day, we congratulated ourselves. We had discovered a silvery, white perch lining in an otherwise unlikely afternoon.